The Man Who Tried to Hide from Jesus

Based on the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19, 1-10

[There is some interaction with the group in this story. We need a Jesus and a Zach, the latter not too tall, and a chair or stepladder for him or her (both are equal opportunity parts) to stand on. They can act as the script describes, but don’t need to say anything. There are some questions for everyone, and some can act as “the crowd,” while everyone can provide crowd noises when indicated.]

Here’s a tricky question: does Jesus love good people or bad people? What do you think? (Answers.) Listen to this story and see if you change your mind!

Once upon a time there was man called Zaccheus. His friends would have called him Zack—except that he didn’t have any friends. Why? Because he was mean and he was a bully and he was greedy and he was selfish and he was a thief. Apart from that, he was quite nice, but that was a lot of bad stuff. And he was quite short: you’ll see why that’s important in a minute.

One day, Jesus decided to visit Zack’s town, which was called Jericho. Well, everybody turned out to see Jesus, even Zack, and the crowds lined up on both sides of the street. (I need a few volunteers to be a crowd. Really, you know, we only need three: you know how I know? Because two’s company but three’s a crowd. But OK, I’ll take four or five.)

But Zack had a problem. Can you think what it might be? He was short, so he couldn’t see over the crowd. And because the people didn’t like Zack, they didn’t want him to see. So Zack thought, “What can I do? I really want to see Jesus.” But nobody would let him through. (Zach tries to get through the crowd, but they just ignore him, and don’t make room for him.)

Well, there was a tree nearby (a sycamore tree, as it happens), so Zack ran over and scrambled up the tree so he could see over everybody’s heads. Perhaps he thought, “I can see everybody from here, but nobody can see me cos I’m hidden in the tree. Even Jesus won’t be able to see me, and that’s good, because I know he wouldn’t like me, because I’ve done so many bad things.”

Just then, Jesus came into sight, walking along the dusty road. (Everyone shout, Here he comes!) When he came near, everybody started cheering (everybody cheer!), and Jesus waved and smiled.

But then the strangest thing happened. Jesus stopped and told everyone to stop cheering—which they did. And he looked up into the sycamore tree, and he said a very surprising thing, the last thing anyone expected him to say. He called out, “ZACCHEUS!” And Zack looked around and said, “Who’s Jesus talking to? It can’t be me because I’m such a bad person. Is there another Zaccheus up this tree that he’s talking to?” And he looked around but no, he was the only Zaccheus in the sycamore tree.

So he said to Jesus, “Who, me, Jesus?” And Jesus smiled and said, “YES, you, Zaccheus. Come down from that tree as quickly as you can because I’m coming to your house today for a cup of tea.” Well, Zack was so excited that he almost fell out of the tree. And off they went to Zack’s house for a cup of tea (English Breakfast Tea, I expect—fairly traded, of course).

But the people in the crowd were shocked (talk to each other): “Why has Jesus gone to Zack’s house? Doesn’t he know what a bad person Zaccheus is? He can’t possibly LIKE Zaccheus?” And they began to murmur and grumble. (This half of the room murmur and this other half grumble, please. You can just say “rhubarb” if you don’t know how to murmur or grumble.)

After a bit, Zack and Jesus came out of his house, and Zack said to Jesus in front of everyone, “Lord, I’m sorry for all the bad things I’ve done, and I promise to make it all right. Instead of being mean, I’ll be kind from now on. Instead of stealing, I’ll give my money away. If I’ve stolen $5 from someone, I’ll give them $50 back. And instead of being a bully, I’ll make friends with people.”

And Jesus put his arm round Zack and said: “I want everybody to know that Zack is a friend of mine, and he’s helping me in my work to bring God’s love to the world.” And all the crowd began to cheer again, because they saw how being a friend of Jesus can change people in wonderful ways. (Everybody cheer!)

So . . . does Jesus love good people or bad people? (Answers.) Jesus loves everybody, whether they’re good or bad, whoever they are, whatever they’ve done, grownups and children—and he knows all their names, just he like he knew Zaccheus’ name—but he wants everybody to be his friend and help him in God’s work of making the world a better place—and even you and I can be his friends and help him do that!

Messy Church, Sept 2013